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Gertrude Schneider

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5015 | Film ID: 3221, 3222, 3223, 3224, 3225, 4717

Gertrude Schneider was a Viennese Jew deported with her family to the Riga ghetto. The interview, which also includes Schneider's mother and sister, covers topics such as the perception of Viennese Jews by Latvian Jews, sex and pregnancy in the ghetto, and the March 26, 1942 deportation Aktion. At Lanzmann's urging, the women sing several Yiddish songs they learned in the ghetto.

FILM ID 3221 -- Camera Rolls #3,4,5 -- 01:01:00 to 01:26:41
CR 3: A few seconds of a street scene in New York, then Dr. Gertrude Schneider is shown sitting on her couch. Lanzmann asks her why she wrote her book about the Riga ghetto. She says that in the course of research for her book she discovered that the widely held notion that the Latvian Jews had been killed [in November/December 1941] to make room for the German [and Austrian] Jews was incorrect, although this impression was fostered by the SS personnel in the ghetto. Sound drops out from 01:03:28 to 01:03:36. Video drops out.

CR 4: 01:04:19 Lanzmann asks Schneider to return to the subject of whether Latvian Jews had actually been killed to make room for the German Jews. She explains that [Rudolf] Lange carried out the killings in a very haphazard fashion, that in fact it did not make sense to kill skilled workers to replace them with the predominantly middle-class German Jews. She says that there are still Latvian Jews who blame the German Jews for the deaths of their families, but that nonetheless the remaining Latvian Jews behaved wonderfully to the Germans. She describes the separation of the two parts of the ghetto. She begins to describe her family's deportation from Vienna on February 1, 1942.

CR 5: 01:15:37 Schneider describes being taken with her family and all the Jews in her street to a school, where they encountered Anton Brunner. Brunner tore up her father's identification card, which indicated that he was a "Wirtschafts-Wichtiger Jude"[economically valuable Jew]. They were told that they were being sent east but they did not know more than that, until someone mentioned Riga. She describes the four day train journey to Riga. The car was so warm that she washed her hair using warm water from the radiator. She says that Alois Brunner traveled with their transport and shot Sigmund Bosel on the steps of their train car. She talks about passing through Krakow and seeing Jews working on the railroad. She says that her mother brought along marzipan in her suitcase that she intended to save until they got to the ghetto. Schneider waited until everyone fell asleep and then ate half the marzipan.

FILM ID 3222 -- Camera Rolls #6,7,8,9 -- 02:00:00 to 02:33:47
CR 6: [CLIP 1 BEGINS] Schneider finishes the story about the marzipan, then describes their arrival in Riga. She says that Lange was one of the two German SS men who greeted the transport and offered them the option of walking the 8 km to Riga or taking a bus. Approximately 700 people chose the buses and 300 chose to walk. Schneider and her immediate family chose to walk and she found out much later that the buses were gas vans. She describes their arrival in the ghetto and says it was extremely cold.

CR 7: 02:11:26 Schneider talks further about her impression of Lange and [Gerhard] Maywald, whom she describes as Lange's sidekick. She says the SS men seemed like gods to her. She says that she remembers when the German army came into Vienna. Lanzmann asks her whether her family was self-consciously Jewish. She describes the horrible conditions that awaited them when they reached Riga and the house where they all spent the night. There was evidence of the previous Latvian inhabitants, although the Austrian Jews were not aware of the Latvians' fate. She says they found false teeth frozen into a glass beside one of beds and a dead baby in the toilet. Despite the evidence they still did not imagine that the previous occupants of the house had been killed [CLIP 1 ENDS].

CR 8: 2:22:38 Schneider describes how two of the people from her transport killed themselves the night they arrived in the ghetto. The next day Schneider and her family moved into an apartment at Berlinerstrasse 13, which was already inhabited by Jews from a previous transport.

CR 9: 02:28:51 Schneider says there were not many suicides at the beginning but she believes that those who did kill themselves realized the seriousness of the situation. She talks about the numbers of people in the German ghetto in Riga and describes the March 1942 Aktion. The pretext for the Aktion was that the people were to be sent to a factory where fish was canned [in Duenamuende]

FILM ID 3223 -- Camera Rolls #92,93 -- 03:00:00 to 03:23:05
CR 92: Schneider now sits on the couch with her mother and sister (who is out of the frame at first). Schneider crochets and speaks softly in German with the other women. She picks up with the story of the Jews who were told they were being sent to a cannery to work. She says they were happy to go, some even requested that they be sent, because they were told they would be working inside and have enough food to eat. Gerhard Maywald (Lange's deputy) claimed at his trial that this lie about the cannery was an act of kindness. Schneider details the day of the Aktion [March 26, 1942] and the camera pans over to show her sister and then her mother. Schneider tells the story of a Viennese woman who decided at the last minute not to report for "work." The Germans brought the clothes of the dead Jews back to the ghetto a few days later, at which point they realized what had happened. Schneider's sister interjects that the German Jews, unlike the Austrian Jews, thought that they would somehow be protected by virtue of being German. Schneider mentions the killing sites of the Rumbula and the Bikernieki forests. Schneider and Lanzmann try to include Schneider's mother in the conversation but she is confused about locations and time frames.

CR 93: 03:11:19 Lanzmann talks to Schneider's sister while the camera pulls in close on the mother, who appears upset. Lanzmann asks about abortion and sex in the ghetto. Schneider asks her mother some questions in German about whether people continued to have sex in the ghetto. Schneider's mother talks briefly about her husband, who died in Buchenwald near the end of the war. [CLIP 2 BEGINS] Schneider's sister talks about her experiences with pregnant women at the hospital in the ghetto: women were forced to have an abortion, no matter how late in pregnancy. They talk about the prohibition against sex in the ghetto which was impossible for the Germans to enforce. They tell the story of a woman who had a child born in the ghetto. They called the child Moses Ben Ghetto and he was eventually found and killed. They talk further about abortion [CLIP 2 ENDS] and about venereal disease. The last minute or so contains audio but no video.

FILM ID 3224 -- Camera Rolls #94,94A,95,95A -- 04:00:00 to 04:29:00
CR 94: Lanzmann asks Schneider to sing a song that they used to sing in the ghetto. The song was written by a ghetto inmate and was based on the communist song "Die Moorsoldaten." The transcript indicates that they sing "Asoi muss sein," taught to them by the Latvian Jews, but the audio drops out from 04:05:54 to 04:06:18. Schneider sings another song about a Jewish woman who had an affair with a Latvian man and ended up in hospital for an abortion. The women start talking about one German who was not so bad but Lanzmann asks them about more ghetto songs. They sing several songs, including at least one brought to Kaiserwald by the Vilna Jews when they arrived in September 1943.

CR 94A: 04:10:35 is repeated (from another camera); this time there is audio for the song "Asoi muss sein." Schneider sings the song to her mother, which makes her mother cry. Video is missing from 04:18:30 to 04:21:44.

CR 95: 04:21:45 Schneider sings the song about Schirotowa (the train station in Riga? Probably misspelled) again, then another song from the Vilna Jews.

CR 95A: 04:25:22 repeats CR 95.

FILM ID 3225 -- Camera Rolls #96,96B,97 -- 05:00:00 to 05:26:45
CR 96: [CLIP 3 BEGINS] Schneider talks about the Jews of the Vilna transport and the conditions at Kaiserwald. The women sing a Russian song, then part of a Polish song [CLIP 3 ENDS].

CR 96B: 05:07:54 repeats from a different camera.

CR 97: 05:15:37 Schneider continues talking about a song the Polish girls sang at Stutthof, "Male Biale Dome." She talks about the Partisanenlied (partisan songs) brought to Kaiserwald by the Vilna Jews. She sings a song that the family all sang when they were together for the last time, on her father's birthday in July 1944. In response to a question from Lanzmann, Schneider talks about how it felt to see her parents made powerless by the Germans. She tells a story about seeing her father after he received a beating. Lanzmann asks whether children ever despised their parents for their powerlessness, to which Schneider answers emphatically that the opposite was the case, they loved their parents even more. Schneider's sister says that she hated the Germans who hurt her father more than she hated the Germans who hit her.

FILM ID 4717 -- NY 10 photos Riga Ghetto (00:02:36)
Clapperboard: "Holocauste Aleph Lanzmann Lubchansky NY 10" CUs, four black and white photographs depicting the Riga ghetto.

Event:  November 1978
Production:  1985
New York, NY, United States
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:02:48
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